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SPY SCHOOL SECRET SERVICE

From the Spy School series , Vol. 5

This is espionage well worth uncovering.

Only a few months after accidently blowing up the principal’s office at the CIA Academy of Espionage, 13-year-old Benjamin Ripley is back with another explosive assignment, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher.

With reliable intel that the evil organization SPYDER is plotting an assassination attempt against the president of the United States, Ben is handpicked to go undercover as a friend of the president’s son to stop the attack before it happens. In keeping with Spy School adventures past, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and Ben and his agent-in-training classmates find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes and hilarious secret operation to save the leader of the free world. While Gibbs largely sticks to the formula that readers have come to know and love, the setting takes on added importance in this installment, keeping the story fresh and adding depth to the otherwise lighthearted spy romp. As it’s peppered with entertaining historical trivia, readers may even learn a thing or two as they follow Ben from one Washington, D.C., landmark to the next. While Ben is white and the rest of the cast lacks significant racial diversity, their individual quirks and humor will likely appeal to middle-grade readers. Strong female characters like Ben’s crush, superspy-in-training Erica Hale, add a gender balance and strengthen the story.

This is espionage well worth uncovering. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7782-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS

From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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